Creating the true Americana experience on a VERY limited budget for 4th of July is a challenge that can be undertaken by any Main Street community. People are highly engaged in the simple pleasures of playing on the 4th. This year we had a severe drought and there were no fireworks allowed in any of the surrounding counties, including ours. So, we were the only game in town after community after community canceled all of their 4th fun.
This is our 3rd year doing the silly stuff of American fun in our downtown park and we are getting better at it every year. We had hundreds of families participate - and we played in our downtown for 5 consecutive days celebrating Main Street USA on a budget of less than $350.
First, we partnered with a local business to sponsor a fan that on one side would have thier business and offer a discount and on the other have the full 5 days of events we were planning. They ordered 1000 and we passed out almost all of them to hot visitors and locals alike. Her business was waving up and down the downtown district!
We also partnered with the Farmers Market to donate the watermelon for the festival and several shops and organizations to cover the expenses of crafts and games.
Starting on the 4th of July we offered FREE family activities in our downtown park starting at 10AM and we had people lining up to play immediately. We always had a craft and a game going and switched them each hour. Some things, like the water balloon toss, we played several times to let everyone get in on the fun. Our big event is the Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest and this year we divided the entrents into categories: Ages 0-6, 7-12, Women 13+ and Men 13+. The prize was a watermelon in each category.
On the second day we did a celebration of cultural tourism featuring free 15 minute tours every half hour led by area residents. We had the GM of the local historic hotel give a full tour, a ghost tour led by a leading ghost-oligist, an art tour exploring the arts, a natrualist tour, etc. We also provided a free scavenger hunt in our downtown where players had to hunt for sights and landmarks, asking locals along the way. We had families all finish with the winning prize being a free tour the next morning.
On the third day we featured shopping! Local shops hosted free refreshements and discounts from 4-7pm for shoppers. Some had adult beverages, some punch, and other goodies. The event, Shopping with a Punch, was a great way to get people into downtown shops at a time when there is often less foot traffic due to dinner plans.
On the fourth day we highlighted the number of pubs we have with an American Spirits tribute. Participating locations provided specials on drinks featuring American licquor, wine or in the spirit of Red White and Blue. This was a late evening event - 8-10PM and just for grownups.
On the 5th day we gathered the board and paraded down our central street and went into every business thanking them for being part of our downtown. We were, of course, decked out in red, white and blue with American flags and balloons - oh, and two huge great danes! We then met the mayor in the park for a Mayoral Proclimation. Refreshements - watermelon, of course, were provided. After a local square dance caller led a huge group for called square dances. People jumped in and out of the dances having a great time.
5 days of celebration, very little money, and a huge tribute to the 4th and everything it takes to be a Main Street. I highly recommend that folks spend time playing downtown and offering free family fun. We had one family say that after seeing our posted events they chose our community over two others they were thinking of visiting. Another said that they loved sharing simple outdoor fun iwth thier kids. And another was thrilled to get exposed to all the shops and tours that we offer in our town. Was it worth it? You bet it was!